What Are the Wall Street Protesters So Angry About?

Henry Blodget, the CEO of Business Insider and a former top-ranked Wall Street analyst who has worked at Prudential Securities, Oppenheimer & Co., and Merrill Lynch, thinks that those participating in the Wall Street protests have a lot to be angry about.  Here is his recent post at Business Insider.

The “Occupy Wall Street” protests are gaining momentum, having spread from a small park in New York to marches to other cities across the country.

So far, the protests seem fueled by a collective sense that things in our economy are not fair or right.  But the protesters have not done a good job of focusing their complaints—and thus have been skewered as malcontents who don’t know what they stand for or want.

(An early list of “grievances” included some legitimate beefs, but was otherwise just a vague attack on “corporations.” Given that these are the same corporations that employ more than 100 million Americans and make the products we all use every day, this broadside did not resonate with most Americans).

So, what are the protesters so upset about, really?

Do they have legitimate gripes?

To answer the latter question first, yes, they have very legitimate gripes.

And if America cannot figure out a way to address these gripes, the country will likely become increasingly “de-stabilized,” as sociologists might say. And in that scenario, the current protests will likely be only the beginning.

Read the rest here.

HT: Russ Reeves

Was Marx Right About Capitalism and the Middle Class?

During periods of economic difficulty the voices questioning the capitalist system in the West tend to get louder and, depending on your willingness to listen, more convincing.

At the website of the BBC News Magazine, John Gray argues that Karl Marx may have been wrong about communism, but he was right in his prediction that capitalism would eventually suck the life out of the middle class.  Here is a taste: 

…As capitalism has advanced it has returned most people to a new version of the precarious existence of Marx’s proles. Our incomes are far higher and in some degree we’re cushioned against shocks by what remains of the post-war welfare state.

But we have very little effective control over the course of our lives, and the uncertainty in which we must live is being worsened by policies devised to deal with the financial crisis. Zero interest rates alongside rising prices means you’re getting a negative return on your money and over time your capital is being eroded.

The situation of many younger people is even worse. In order to acquire the skills you need, you’ll have to go into debt. Since at some point you’ll have to retrain you should try to save, but if you’re indebted from the start that’s the last thing you’ll be able to do. Whatever their age, the prospect facing most people today is a lifetime of insecurity.

Warren Buffett: "Stop Codding the Super-Rich"

Warren Buffett, one of the wealthiest men in the world, believes that we should stop giving tax breaks to the “super-rich.”  He writes: “Our leaders have asked for ‘shared sacrifice.’ But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.”

Buffet paid close to $7 million in federal taxes last year, which was 17.4% of his taxable income.  When he surveyed the other 20 people who work in his office, tax burdens ranged from 33% to 41%.

Buffett concludes:

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice. 

Something to think about this morning.